The revolution will not be televised –it will be emailed, texted, blogged, wikied and twittered….
If you have been emailing, texting, blogging, contributing or editing articles to Wikipedia, or twittering and facebooking, chances are there is nothing new that you will find about this book. We are pulled into it without knowing that we are part of a social revolution, and by using these social tools we are doing a greater good to mankind.
How is it so? Well, some of the examples portrayed in the book were a surprise for me:
- It takes a whole village to find a phone: A friend is able to immobilize his social network to help locate a missing mobile phone in the huge city of New York.
- Everyone is a media outlet: Journalistic privilege is threatened because of mass amateurisation i.e. people like you and me who found an avenue to publish (blogging) and some went ahead and form a large group of readership without having to train as professional journalist.
- Sharing anchors community. Sharing encourages cooperation, surmountable to collective action. Political demonstration, flash mobs, unfiltered voices from China (about the Sze Chuan earthquake) and repressive countries are being heard and collaborative actions are taken. Or what used to be hidden is now on the surface, the example of priests who relocates frequently to cover the fact that they had abused the choir boys. Not until family of victims are connected together did they realize the magnitude of the problem and took action.
- Never forget, especially in the workplace, that email is a public act. The email from a whistle blower in Enron is such.
The very act of writing and sending an email can be a kind of publishing, because once an e-mail is sent, it is almost impossible to destroy all the copies, and anyone who has a copy can broadcast it to the world at will, and with ease. Now and presumably from now on, the act of creating and circulating evidence of wrongdoing to more than a few people, even if they all work together, will be seen as a delayed but public act.
Hmmm.. I have to keep reminding myself that.
- Publish then filter: talks about the phenomenon of Flickr photo share and weblogs. Bloggers derive more satisfaction by writing for friends to read than writing for an audience. Before the Internet it took huge effort to say something that would be heard by a significant number of people, so we regard any publicly available material as being offered directly to us. With weblogs, much of what gets posted on any given day is in public but not for the public.
- Personal motivation meets collaborate production is the most awe-inspiring chapter about the birth and sustainability of Wikipedia. Wikipedia survives vandalism because it is built from the assumption that the good edits will outweigh the bad ones; and that new errors will be introduced less frequently than existing ones will be corrected. This assumption has proven correct. Wikipedia articles get better, on average, over time. The 80-20 Pareto rule applies for Wikipedia success as well, as 20% of the contributors are editors for 80% of the materials. Linux and Wiki are products of social altruism, with essential ingredients of social density and continuity. This community operates in the principle of reciprocal altruism (I did a favour today, and other days someone will do me a favour). I thought it is a magnificent model for virtuous living, and gave hope to the good of human kind when I read this chapter.
- Fitting our tools to a small world: seriously there is only few hours in our waking hours that we do real socialising. No fear, as with social networking tools, a larger network is a sparsely linked group of more densely linked subnetworks. Only several few-person networks together into a network of networks. Confused? Read the book, it is profound.
As all unregulated Internet tools prove, the result of this new world order of easy collaboration can be both good (flash mob with peaceful demonstration ice-cream eating protest and Wikipedia etc) and bad (teenage girls sharing advice for staying dangerously skinny), it is social dilemma that we have to live with. Because like it or not, the social revolution is affecting EVERYBODY.
For the first time, we have the tools to make group action truly a reality. At core, our most primal need is to socialise. Now that the transaction costs of communicating is virtually free, we are socializing with ease again. Communication doesn’t get socially interesting until it is technologically boring. The younger generation take up this revolution like fish to water, while the older ones or more specifically the bureaucrats have to unlearn what they learn and take advantage of the revolution to make a bigger impact in the world.
What I like most about book: The book is insightful and I learnt many new things from it. It also helps me put the recent happenings in social networking in perspective for me.
What I like least about book: Shirky writes almost in circles, fluffing up simple example stories to many pages and then referring to them repeatedly throughout the book as if they capture some great Truth. The middle is good, the beginning and the end have more fluffing up. It can get text-booky.